By Jeff Zrebiec and Matt Vensel, The Baltimore Sun
12:32 AM EDT, May 9, 2012
It was Ravens safety Bernard Pollard who first broke the news Tuesday on his Twitter account, announcing that a former teammate with the Houston Texans, wide receiver and kick returner Jacoby Jones, would join him and fullback Vonta Leach in Baltimore.
Then, about an hour later, the Ravens confirmed the addition of Jones while also revealing that they had extended Pollard's contract for three seasons, through 2015. Jones received a two-year, $7 million deal. Terms of Pollard's new pact weren't immediately known, but it stands to reason that the configuration of the contract allowed the Ravens to fit Jones under the salary cap.
"Bernard showed us last year that he is a Raven," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. "He's smart, tough and brings a passion to the games, our practices and in the weight room. His physical presence on the back end is very important to the way we play defense. He has indicated since the first day he stepped into our building last training camp that he wanted to be a Raven for the long haul."
With the signing of Jones and the extension for Pollard, the Ravens solidified their safety position going forward and upgraded their depth at wide receiver while potentially adding an impact return man.
Jones, 27, agreed to sign with the Ravens after visiting with team officials the past couple of days. He was let go by the Texans last week after catching 31 passes for 512 yards and serving as Houston's primary punt returner. He was due to make $3million this coming season, but he became expendable when Houston drafted receivers in the third and fourth round, selecting Ohio State's DeVier Posey and Michigan State's Keshawn Martin.
"Adding Jacoby gives us another proven downfield weapon in our passing game and production with our returns," Newsome said. "His experience makes the offense better, and the competition he brings can help raise our levels at receiver and with punt and kickoff returns."
Jones, who has 127 career catches for 1,741 yards and 11 touchdowns, and has averaged 13.7 yards per reception, becomes the favorite to replace Lee Evans as the Ravens' No. 3 wide receiver behind Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. But he'll get plenty of competition for that role from second-year wide receivers Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams and rookie sixth-round pick Tommy Streeter out of Miami.
Jones does figure to factor prominently in the Ravens' return game, which was a nonfactor for much of last season.
As a punt returner, the speedster has averaged 10.6 yards per return with three touchdowns. He didn't return kickoffs last year, but he has done it in his career, averaging 23.3 yards per kickoff return with one touchdown.
His muffed punt in Houston's 20-13 loss to the Ravens in an AFC divisional playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium in mid-January, leading to a touchdown, was one of the last acts of his uneven five-year Texans career.
Jones and Pollard were teammates with the Texans during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. But Pollard signed a two-year deal with the Ravens last year, and his hard-hitting and intense style made him an immediate factor on their vaunted defense.
In starting 15 of the Ravens' 18 games at strong safety, Pollard made 75 total tackles (55 solo), two sacks, one interception, a career-high 13 passes defended and three forced fumbles.
Pollard had been set to enter the final year of his deal, but the Ravens wanted to have some continuity at the position going forward. Ravens free safety Ed Reed is also entering the final season of his contract, and he had pondered retirement before. The Ravens also lost reserve safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura to free agency.
3 picks agree to terms
The Ravens reached agreements Tuesday with second-round pick Kelechi Osemele, fourth-round pick Christian Thompson and fifth-round pick Asa Jackson. Osemele and Jackson have agreed to terms on four-year deals.
Osemele, a 6-foot-5, 335-pound offensive lineman, started 44 consecutive games at Iowa State and played in 49 games overall. He is expected to compete for the starting left guard spot that was vacated by Ben Grubbs when he signed with the New Orleans Saints.
Jackson, a 5-foot-10, 190-pound cornerback, made eight interceptions during his Cal Poly career and also brought back punts and kickoffs, averaging 14.7 yards on punt returns and 25.1 on kickoff returns. He will be in the competition for playing time at both returner spots.
Thompson is a 6-foot, 211-pound safety from South Carolina State.
The Ravens are working to get the five other members of their draft class under contract before this weekend's rookie minicamp in Owings Mills. They will also make it official with their rookie free agents before then, finalizing contracts once they pass physicals.
McBean's ban reduced
The Ravens won't have to wait as long as once thought to work new defensive tackle Ryan McBean into their regular-season defensive line rotation. McBean, who agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Ravens on Monday, had his six-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancement policy reduced to three games.
In exchange for the reduced suspension, McBean has dropped his lawsuit against the NFL that alleged the league improperly handled his drug test.
McBean, 28, spent the previous three seasons with the Denver Broncos and had his best year in 2011 with 33 total tackles and four sacks while playing in all 16 regular-season games. In three NFL seasons, McBean has 77 tackles and four sacks in 46 games.
McBean, who is 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, is the second defensive lineman to sign with the Ravens since last month's draft. They signed nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu last week.
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